Back cover of "Mortal Acts, Mortal Words"

Back cover of “Mortal Acts, Mortal Words”

I published a tribute to Galway Kinnell over at last week. Kinnell, certainly one of this country’s most important poets of the last fifty year, died on October 28. Read the beginning of the piece here, then check out the rest at

The Mortal Sounds of Galway Kinnell: Some Last Lines,

“what, anyway,
was that sticky infusion, that rank flavor of blood, that
poetry, by which I lived?”

last lines of “The Bear,” from Body Rags (1965)

Galway Kinnell’s poetry is responsible in part for keeping me going in the early days of trying to take myself seriously as a writer. Kinnell died about a week ago at the age of 87 after a battle with leukemia. Whenever I am struck low by something big, or even something that won’t let me escape, like some ludicrous over-the-top rapture (these days I really love Taylor Swift and what the Hunger Games novels say about girl power … seriously!), I turn to collections of this great Irish American poet’s work — Body Rags, Mortal Acts, Mortal Words, What a Kingdom It Was, or The Book of Nightmares. I don’t read his poems to lift me up or calm me down so much as to screw me all the way back in again. Life is hard. Pain is part of beauty. Death has immense meaning. Perhaps our fear of it should not be met with anger or rage so much as sorrow and love. Galway Kinnell had an acute ability to go into the tenderness of life’s most hardcore realities and light things up just the right way.

My college poetry professor, Gary Miranda, introduced me to Kinnell’s work. Gary would finish our Tuesday night classes reading us his favorite     Go Here to Read the Rest

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